Are the effects of Rolfing permanent?

rolfing logoPeople wonder all the time whether Rolfing creates permanent changes in your posture. It’s a perfectly good question to ask, and it’s one you should ask!

The answer is pretty straightforward.

The answer is no.

What? Shouldn’t I be telling you that Rolfing is the best thing since sliced bread? That if you come and see me ten times in Menlo Park that you’ll feel like a million bucks for the rest of your life? You’re right, I should tell you that, but I know that would set you up for some pretty severe disappointment down the line.

The truth about your body and how it moves is this: IT CHANGES.

My brother is an engineer who designs prosthetic limbs and joints. Years ago he was working on a project to create a knee and lower leg that would attach to the thigh bone (femur) for people who had their legs amputated above the knee. The knee’s resistance was to be managed by internal software that would adjust fluid levels in the joint to make the lower leg move as quickly or as slowly as the user needed. The idea was that the prosthetic knee and lower leg would adapt to the user’s movement patterns so that it felt like a real knee and lower leg.

It was a nightmare of a project. Why? Because every day, every hour, the way the user moved would change. If the knee and leg adapted to movement patterns Monday night, the movement patterns Tuesday morning were different enough to make the whole thing unusable. It would just seize. In fact, the system didn’t even work that well to last a night. Because the user’s movement patterns would change with every step, the knee was prone to seizing up very, very often. Not really a recipe for success, but it should be helpful to realize how much your body changes from moment to moment.

Think about it. When you sit down for a movie, you get up stiffer than you were. It takes time for you to warm up again. Some days, you wake up feeling loose and limber. Other days you need to stretch things out a bit to get going. If you do heavy exercising, you know that some days need to be recovery days!

So what does that mean for Rolfing and your posture? Rolfing can help you interrupt poor movement patterns, yes. It can help you relieve the tightness and restrictions that create inefficient and uncomfortable patterns of movement, yes. It can remove the effects of injuries that have been limiting you for years, yes. It can help you understand how certain movements should feel, how your posture should feel, and how good your entire body can feel. And once you’ve felt how your body should feel, it gets a lot easier to maintain your body with that good feeling!

But Rolfing will not guarantee that the same or new inefficient patterns will never visit you. It will not guarantee that you’ll never fall while hiking and tweak something. It won’t protect you from a bad spill on a fifty mile bike ride. And if you go right back to using your body with poor mechanics, it definitely will not protect you from overuse injuries that come from using your body poorly!

No amount of Rolfing is going to permanently help you if this is how you do your deadlift.

Remember, there are a lot of variables that affect your posture and affect your ability to move with ease, grace, control, and power. Rolfing addresses some. Proper training, stretching, and maintaining a healthy balance of movement in your life will help you get the most out of your body for life.


About the Author

Matt Hsu is a trainer and orthopedic massage therapist. He fought a long battle with chronic pain all over his body and won. He blends the principles he learned in his journey, empirical observations with clients, and relevant research to help others get their lives back.